WHAT IF THEY DON’T ASK?
‘But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who
asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ 1
‘But what if they don’t ask?’ This was often my response when thinking about this passage in 1 Peter as a member of my CU at university. I’d taken time to think through the questions that my friends might ask and was confident in how I would answer them. I’d thought through the relevant places in the Bible I might go to help them understand. I’d chatted through the extra-Biblical evidence that pointed to the truth claims made by the Bible. But what if they didn’t ask?
What struck me when reading this verse and hearing it preached on a few times at CU was not the expectation that Peter placed on the persecuted followers of Christ in Asia Minor to be ready to ‘give the reason for the hope they have,’ though an important takeaway, but the confidence he had in the fact that people would ask them questions! In other words, my question following on from this was: how? How do I live in a way that generates questions?’
Helpfully, the rest of the letter offers us a few clues. Peter spends large portions of his letter expressing a deep concern for the witness of Christians’ lives to those around them. In 2:12 Peter exhorts these followers of Christ to ‘live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us,’ and right before his encouragement to ‘always be prepared to give an answer’ Peter reminds the Church to do good, to love one another, to be compassionate and humble and even to repay evil with blessing. It seems then that Peter is confident that the questions will come about the hope that they have when the lives of these persecuted Christians are distinctive and attractive to such a degree that those around them cannot help but enquire as to what it is that makes them live in such a way.
Don’t you feel a bit like some of those Christians Peter is writing to in this letter? A minority that people laugh at and push aside and even openly mock sometimes? Well, maybe university isn’t a million miles away from first century Asia minor. It can be hard to live distinctively at Uni, and even harder to love our friends in the way Peter calls us to
in this letter, but here are a few tips to help:
1. FRIENDS - It can be really easy to love church and CU so much that you end up only spending time with other Christians and never making friends with people in your halls, on your course or in societies. Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone in CU was also involved in at least one other society?
2. INVITE – How are our friends from our subjects, sports teams and societies supposed to reflect on the distinctiveness of Christian community if they never get to see it? One of the best things we can do to love our friends well and demonstrate the beautiful community described by Peter in chapter 3 is to invite them into it. Invite your mates from CU and your mates from a society to have dinner at your flat, or maybe invite your mates to join you at your Impact Group one week?
3. ASK – Always be interested! One of the most helpful pieces of advice I’ve ever been given on how to start a conversation about my faith is to ask lots of questions. Ask until you find a bridge, something you have in common, and eventually, you’ll be asked a question back. This is more important than ever in a Covid-19 world with so few opportunities to hang out together physically! Asking questions and being genuinely interested in our friends and those we meet on campus is a major way that we can witness with our lives in the way Peter calls his readers to throughout his letters.
4. SERVE – Serve your friends! Cook dinner for your flat mates; always be around to listen when they’ve had a tough day; grab a coffee with that friend you know is struggling with work at the moment. Not every conversation needs to end up with a presentation of the gospel. By being involved in the lives of our friends who don’t yet know Jesus, inviting them into Christian community and loving them well, the opportunities to share why it is that our lives are distinctive will, in God’s grace, present themselves. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, this year, Brookes CU was a community characterised by love, compassion and humility and a community so outward focussed and rooted in the love we have first received in Christ Jesus, that it flowed out into our relationships to such a degree that our friends could not help but ask about the hope we have?
Better get your answers ready!